Iraqi troops begin final assault to force Islamic State out of Mosul

Tina Ray
June 19, 2017

Sunday's push to reclaim the Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq comes as USA -backed fighters have undertaken a similar effort in Syria, where ISIS militants have long held onto control of Raqqa.

Hundreds of civilians were killed near the frontlines in the past three weeks while fleeing the Old City, as Iraqi forces could not fully secure exit corridors.

USA -backed Iraqi troops pushed into the last Islamic State stronghold in the country's second largest city of Mosul on Sunday, an Iraqi commander said, formally launching the final major battle of an eight-month campaign.

In the northern city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State group, a USA -backed Syrian force entered new neighborhoods east and west of the city adding that they were able to free dozens of civilians who were trapped in the fighting.

Old Mosul is where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the so-called Islamic Caliphate on June 29, 2014 in al-Nuri mosque.

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul and Raqqa to field commanders, becoming effectively a fugitive in the border area between Iraq and Syria.

- March 14: Iraqi forces say they have captured the city's train station after reaching other symbolic sites such as the regional government headquarters and the city's museum.

In Mosul, where a USA -backed offensive against Islamic State on Saturday entered its ninth month, the militants have been squeezed into an enclave on the western bank of the Tigris river.

In Mosul, U.S. -backed Iraqi forces have squeezed IS fighters into a small enclave in the Old City sector after a nine-month battle.

In the last square mile of Islamic State territory in this city, terrified families trapped in their basements are bracing for a final ferocious showdown.

"The operation now is about street fighting".

According to the Interior Ministry's statement, Iraqi police, army and anti-terrorism forces have jointly begun advancing towards the region from three sides. Al-Asadi said the troops "will be very careful" to protect the civilians in the densely populated area.

It was at the Grand Mosque in Mosul's Old City, almost three years ago, that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The group is also retreating in Syria, mainly in the face of a US -backed, Kurdish-led coalition.

People of Mosul are trying to rebuild their lives after the government forces liberated many parts of Iraq's second biggest city from Daesh.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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